sound­check­ing & Mon­i­tor­ing



The aim of th­ese lessons is to high­light the as­pects of drum­ming that re­late to play­ing a show and tour­ing. Whether you’re about to play your first show in a club or you are pre­par­ing for your first tour, I hope that through shar­ing my own ex­pe­ri­ences of trial and er­ror, I can pro­vide in­sight to the new­com­ers among us as to what to ex­pect, as well as some use­ful tips for fu­ture ref­er­ence to those that have been around the block.

Un­til you reach the big stage with a full pro­duc­tion crew and staff, play­ing shows at the grass­roots level will re­quire mu­si­cians to be as self-suf­fi­cient as pos­si­ble, as you will have to be able to look af­ter and pro­vide for your­self. You will need to think about what you need to bring as well as how you could be best pre­pared for all the pro­cesses, such as sound­check, equip­ment shar­ing and team­work. You’ll quickly re­alise that suc­cess­ful gig­ging and tour­ing re­quires a good deal of pro­fes­sion­al­ism and or­gan­i­sa­tion. So, what are all th­ese things that we need to fac­tor in when pre­par­ing for our next show or tour? Let’s get right down to busi­ness.


Once you ar­rive at the venue and load in all of your gear, you would usu­ally ex­pect to wait for your sound­check on­stage at a time or­gan­ised in ad­vance of the show. You will set up your gear, have mi­cro­phones placed as ap­pro­pri­ate and check that ‘your world’ is all set to your lik­ing. From then on, it’s re­ally im­por­tant to be aware of the pur­pose you are serv­ing when sound­check­ing. This process al­lows mu­si­cians on­stage to check their lev­els and make sure that their gear is work­ing, but also for the FOH en­gi­neer to check the lev­els and sonic char­ac­ter­is­tic of your show ‘out front’. For us drum­mers, sound­check usu­ally be­gins from the ‘bot­tom up’, with the bass drum and then the snare, hi-hat, toms and cym­bals as a typ­i­cal or­der. Work with your sound en­gi­neer as he or she will call the part of the kit to check one at a time be­fore you lay down a groove to draw every com­po­nent to­gether. As you play each part of your kit, make sure that you ad­here to the fol­low­ing points: check the drums are at ‘gig vol­ume’; go through all the tech­niques you would use in the show (rimshots, cross-stick); when play­ing a groove, keep it sim­ple and spa­cious so each drum could be dif­fer­en­ti­ated and play fills that take you around all the drums.

In-Ear Mon­i­tors

The sound­check gives you the op­por­tu­nity to check the Fold­back level in your mon­i­tors. Whilst floor mon­i­tors or ‘wedges’ have be­come a fa­mil­iar item on­stage, you will see more peo­ple re­plac­ing them with in-ear sys­tems. The ben­e­fits of th­ese sys­tems in­clude more ef­fec­tive pro­tec­tion of hear­ing, en­hanced fold­back of sound, ease of run­ning a click while clearly hear­ing the oth­ers.

It’s easy to pre­sume that in-ear mon­i­tor­ing would come at high ex­pense but you would be very sur­prised. Brands like Shure have good ‘generic’ iso­la­tion ear­phones for un­der £100 that are now con­sid­ered to be in­dus­try stan­dard. All you need is a small mix­ing desk or a head­phone mon­i­tor de­vice to re­ceive the mon­i­tor feed (usu­ally an XLR ca­ble) and you’re lit­er­ally good to go. You could go all in un­der £200.

I be­lieve in be­ing self-suf­fi­cient, get­ting the job done ef­fi­ciently and keep­ing set-up time to a min­i­mum. It’s all achiev­able through for­ward think­ing, good or­gan­i­sa­tion and care. Ex­pe­ri­ence plays a big part too, but for those of us that are yet to build that, I hope this ar­ti­cle helps in steer­ing you clear of some of the prob­lems I’ve faced over the years. The Academy of Con­tem­po­rary Mu­sic( ACM) is a lead­ing mu­sic in­dus­try ed­u­ca­tion provider that has helped pre­pare mu­si­cians, pro­duc­ers, song­writer sand en­trepreneurs for ca­reers in the mu­sic in­dus­try for over 20 years with state-of-the-art fa­cil­i­ties, world-class fac­ulty and ex­ten­sive in­dus­try con­nec­tions, ACM of­fers mu­sic pro­grammes that de­velop stu­dents to their max­i­mum po­ten­tial and in­stant­ly­im­mers­es­theminthe­mu­sicin­dus­

Un­der­stand­ing the me­chan­ics of gig­ging and tour­ing will help shows run more smoothly

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